Centr trainer Luke Zocchi performs a handstand shirtless against a wall.
Centr Team

Which is better: Body part split vs. full-body workout?

Centr Team

So you want to optimize your muscle-building routine and get the most out of your body come training day? It’s a great idea, but when there are so many competing ways to do that, how do you know where to start?

Let’s start at the beginning. The terms body part split or full-body workout refer to different styles of strength training – you may have heard people referring to a 'full-body workout vs split workout'. But what does this actually mean?

Full-body workout: you are exercising your whole body, with all major muscle groups – the entire body, essentially – being used and stimulated in one workout. You’ll be building muscle by combining exercises that use the upper body and lower body, plus the core, in one training session.

Body part split: you separate your muscle groups or movement patterns into workouts on different days (which means rest days for the other muscles). For example, you might train chest and back one day, legs and core the next day, then shoulders and arms the following day.

So is it better to do full body workouts or split workouts? Now that you know what they mean, let’s look at the benefits of full-body workouts vs the benefits of body-part split workouts and who would train each way.

The full-body workout benefits

The benefits of a full-body workout, in gym or at home, are huge.

Centr trainer Luke Zocchi performs sit-thrus in a gym.

  1. One workout, no muscles left behind. Full-body workout routines are a great way to ensure you are training all muscle groups and building a balanced body. The best full-body workout will work both your upper body (arms, chest, back, shoulders, core) and lower body (legs), be it through compound exercises like burpees or as individual exercises targeting specific body parts; bench press followed by squats, for example.
  2. Strength and cardio combined. Full-body workouts use plenty of compound exercises, multi-joint movements that work several muscles at once, which are an efficient way of training for functional strength and cardiovascular fitness at the same time. These are also known as 'full-body compound workouts.' When the body needs to oxygenate multiple muscles at the same time, the heart rate rises so that blood flow can increase, resulting in cardiovascular fitness – win win, right? This is the (very good) reason why functional fitness training combining strength and cardio has become so popular in recent years.
  3. Best for busy schedules. If your workout schedule is a little random and you can’t make a session, full-body workout routines ensure you won’t miss out on training one specific body part; after all, you can’t miss leg day if you’re targeting the legs every session. This may sound like a small thing, but it’s all too easy to feel derailed and lose motivation – the simpler we can make our lives, the more fulfilled we often feel.

Who can use full-body workouts?

Are full-body workouts effective? Absolutely, especially if you fall into one of these categories:

  • You’re a beginner who needs to build base strength in all areas and learn correct technique, starting positions and movement patterns. If you're new to this style of training and keen to get started, try Centr Begin for a full-body workout for beginners.
  • You need or want more time for rest and recovery.

  • You’re busy and need to tick off all muscle groups in one workout.

  • You want to lose weight and are looking for workouts that maximize calorie burn.

  • You want a cardio blast along with your strength training.

An example full-body workout routine

This is an example of a full-body workout that hits all the major muscle groups using mainly compound movements. This simple routine can be done three times per week, with a rest day in between each session. It incorporates both push and pull movements to challenge the muscles from multiple directions, increasing the workout’s overall effectiveness.

  • Squats: 4 sets of 8–12 reps (use a barbell or dumbbells for resistance)
  • Deadlifts: 3 sets of 8–10 reps (use a barbell or dumbbell to engage the back, glutes, and hamstrings)
  • Bench press: 4 sets of 8–12 reps (use a barbell or dumbbells to work the chest, shoulders, and triceps)
  • Pull-ups or chin-ups: 3 sets of as many reps as possible (use an assisted pull-up machine if necessary)
  • Overhead press: 3 sets of 8–12 reps (use a barbell or dumbbells to target the shoulders and upper back)
  • Bent-over rows: 3 sets of 8–12 reps (use a barbell or dumbbells to strengthen the back and biceps)

What are the benefits of body part split workouts?

Body part split workouts can be great for a number of reasons.

Centr trainer Torre Washington performs a bicep curl with a heavy dumbbell.

  1. Work on your weak areas. Body part split workouts allow you to focus on weaker body parts and put a concentrated effort into strengthening a specific area. Body part splits usually include isolation exercises that hone in to really work one muscle group at a time, like a bicep curl.
  2. Maximize muscle mass. If your goal is hypertrophy, aka building serious muscle and size, the body part split training style is generally considered the best way to do it. That’s why our muscle-building program Centr Power follows a split structure in each training week – with a mix of isolation and compound exercises to layer up the gains.
  3. Focus on a specific strength goal. Want to complete 20 push-ups or grow your arms? Body part split workouts mean you can specifically train the muscle groups involved in that movement pattern or those areas.

Who can use body part split workouts?

Body part split workouts might be best for you if:

  • You’re training at Intermediate or Advanced level and feel ready to level up your gains.

  • You have a particular muscle group you’d like to strengthen.

  • You are injured and limited to training certain muscle groups.

  • You’re looking to build serious size and muscle.

  • You’re organized and can consistently dedicate 4+ days a week to training.

Examples of body part split workout routines

There are a bunch of different ways to break up a body part split routine. Below, we’ll look at some routine options that might work for you.

Classic split
A classic 5-day "bro split" gym routine, where each day is dedicated to a specific muscle group. This routine allows for focused training and ample recovery for each muscle group.

Day 1: Chest

  • Bench press: 4 sets of 8–12 reps
  • Incline dumbbell press: 4 sets of 8–12 reps
  • Cable flys: 3 sets of 1–15 reps
  • Dips (leaning forward for chest emphasis): 3 sets of 8–10 reps

Day 2: Back

  • Deadlifts: 4 sets of 6–10 reps
  • Pull-ups or lat pulldowns: 4 sets of 8–12 reps
  • Bent-over barbell rows: 4 sets of 8–12 reps
  • Seated cable rows: 3 sets of 10–12 reps

Day 3: Legs

  • Squats: 4 sets of 8–12 reps
  • Leg press: 4 sets of 10–15 reps
  • Lunges (barbell or dumbbell): 3 sets of 10 reps per leg
  • Stiff-legged deadlifts: 3 sets of 8–12 reps
  • Calf raises: 4 sets of 12–15 reps

Day 4: Shoulders

  • Overhead press (barbell or dumbbell): 4 sets of 8–12 reps
  • Lateral raises: 3 sets of 12–15 reps
  • Front raises: 3 sets of 12–15 reps
  • Shrugs: 4 sets of 8–12 reps

Day 5: Arms

  • Bicep curls (barbell or dumbbell): 4 sets of 8–12 reps
  • Tricep pushdowns: 4 sets of 8–12 reps
  • Hammer curls: 3 sets of 10–12 reps
  • Skull crushers: 3 sets of 8–12 reps
  • Superset – dumbbell curl and tricep extension: 3 sets of 10–12 reps

Alternatively, try two upper-body and two lower-body sessions weekly, or divide your days between pulling and pushing movements.

Whatever split you use, ensure at least 48 hours of rest between training the same muscle group for optimum recovery.

Don’t overthink it

We get it, the gym can be intimidating and the information overwhelming – especially if you’re a newbie. But don’t let trying to figure out the ‘optimum’ way to build muscle stop you from picking up the weights and diving in.

Any strength training you can fit into your exercise routine is great. And while both styles have benefits, ultimately the best style of training is the one you can stick to. Through experimentation and experience, you’ll find what gets the best results for you.

FAQs about full-body workouts

Can you do a full-body workout every day?
No, you need to give the muscle groups you’re working at least 48 hours to recover between sessions. This might make you feel like you're not working as hard, but with proper recovery and rest days, you’ll see results sooner. If you want to work out on consecutive days, consider a body part split workout program instead.

What are the benefits of a full-body workout?
There are a bunch of benefits. The most obvious is that every workout targets the major muscle groups, meaning you won’t be stressed about missing leg or chest day if life gets in the way of your workout. For this reason, full-body workouts are a good choice if you’re someone with a busy schedule. You’ll boost your cardio levels too, given full-body workouts generally elevate the heart rate and promote functional fitness.

What is the best full-body workout?
The exact workout really depends on your goals. The best full-body exercises are typically compound movements targeting multiple muscle groups, such as squats, deadlifts, bench presses, and pull-ups. These exercises help with improving strength and endurance, and building muscle mass efficiently. Incorporating variations of these exercises in a well-rounded routine can ensure balanced muscle development while helping to prevent injury.

Ready to build muscle?

Whichever training style suit you, Centr has your strength workouts covered. From daily sessions with our expert trainers to our definitive muscle-building program Centr Power – follow in Chris Hemsworth’s footsteps to build serious strength and size at home or in gym.

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